We sing of Winter, of Joy, and of Hope
We sing of Winter, of Joy, and of Hope

Saturday, December 7 (7:30 PM)
Sunday, December 8 (3:00 PM)
St. Mark's United Methodist Church (Bloomington)

Bloomington Chamber Singers presented a holiday offering with two performances of We Sing of Winter, of Joy, and of Hope, on Saturday, December 7 at 7:30 PM, and Sunday, December 8 at 3:00 PM, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 100 North State Road 46 Bypass, Bloomington. Gerald Sousa, in his 25th year as Artistic Director of the Chamber Singers, conducted the sixty-voice choral ensemble, soloists, and orchestra. 


The concert began with winter carols from the 21st century, representing the best of contemporary British and American composers.  It ended with more traditional songs of the season from around the world, chosen for their unique choral arrangements and brilliance of orchestration.  The centerpiece of the concert was Ottorino Respighi’s Laud to the Nativity, an Italian work from the early 1900’s that beautifully tells the story of the birth of Christ from the viewpoint of shepherds and angels.


Here is the review of our concert in the Bloomington Herald-Times:


Concerts beautifully sung

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | pjacobi@heraldt.com Dec 10, 2013

For devotees of choral music, Saturday brought a cornucopia of pleasures. In the afternoon, William Jon Gray led the Indiana University Oratorio Chorus, organist Mason Copland and a brass/percussion ensemble in a festive program given the appropriate title of “Holiday Fanfares.” In the evening, conductor Gerald Sousa, his Bloomington Chamber Singers and an orchestra made good on a promise; the publicized label for the concert was “We Sing of Winter, of Joy, and of Hope.” They did.

The evening event
It was interesting to note, that not only did both Gray and the Bloomington Chamber Singers’ Gerald Sousa seek out holiday music for the most part not frequently heard or even widely known, but their selections included only one shared piece, the touching tribute to “The Lamb,” set by the British John Tavener to words of William Blake.The two performances turned out to be tributes to the composer as well; he died two weeks ago.

Sousa divided his program, presented in St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, into three parts. First, the choir sang carols commissioned by King’s College at Cambridge University for its annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, works of contemporary composers like Tavener, John Woolrich, Jonathan Harvey, Bob Chilcott, Jonathan Dove and Arvo Part. Part’s joyous “Bogoroditse Djevo” (“Rejoice, O Virgin Mary”); Harvey’s “The Angels,” with its overlapping lines and harp enhancement, and two mellifluous carols about shepherds by Chilcott had particularly strong appeal, and the singers treated them insightfully.

Part 2 was given to Ottorino Respighi’s 1930 cantata, “Laud to the Nativity,” a beatific work far different from the composer’s well-known and richly hued tone poems, “Pines of Rome” and “Fountains of Rome.” One can discern hints of very early music, that of the Renaissance and even medieval times, but the harmonies force the listener to remember this is 20th century music. The mixture works to evoke the mystery of the Nativity as experienced from the perspective of the shepherds. Sousa’s 52-member chorus sang almost rapturously, very much in support of the loving aura that Respighi’s score begs for.

The Bloomington Chamber Singers concluded their concert with “A Christmas Tapestry: Carols for Choir and Orchestra.” Here, one heard more familiar tunes (“Ding dong! Merrily on high” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas”) and music from various lands: the Dutch traditional, “King Jesus Hath a Garden;” the Celtic “Child in a Manger;” a French carol, “Quelle est cette odeur agreeable” (“Shepherds, what is that lovely fragrance”); “The Shepherd’s Farewell” from Berlioz’ “L’enfance du Christ;” a stirring new carol, “All bells in paradise,” by the British John Rutter, and more. All were beautifully arranged and beautifully sung.